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Madeleine McCann’s parents LOSE libel case against Portuguese police officer

Madeleine McCann’s parents have lost the latest round of a legal battle against a Portuguese ex-police officer who led the investigation into their daughter’s disappearance.

Kate and Gerry McCann are trying to sue Goncalo Amaral for suggesting they were involved in the disappearance – claims he published in a 2008 book and then repeated in media interviews.

They won the initial case, but Amaral appealed and in 2016 Portuguese judges overturned the decision – prompting the McCanns to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

European judges delivered their verdict today and rejected the appeal, giving the McCanns three months to decide whether to appeal again. A source close to the couple told MailOnline they are “disappointed” and are reviewing their legal options.

Kate and Gerry McCann (archive) have lost the latest round of a long-running legal battle with Goncalo Amaral - the Portuguese ex-cop who led the investigation into Madeleine's disappearance

Kate and Gerry McCann (archive) have lost the latest round of a long-running legal battle with Goncalo Amaral – the Portuguese ex-cop who led the investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance

Madeleine McCann

Madeleine McCann

Madeleine McCann

Madeleine McCann

Madeleine disappeared from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz where she lived with her parents in 2007 and no trace of her has ever been found.

“They felt very strongly about the case or they wouldn’t have taken it to the European Court of Human Rights,” the source said.

“Goncalo Amaral’s comments were clearly, in their eyes, completely unjustified, and they felt compelled to take the case against the Portuguese Supreme Court’s judgment to Strasbourg. They will now examine the judgment and decide what to do.

‘The most important thing for them is to find out what happened to their daughter, and that has always been the most important thing for them.’

Lawyers for Kate and Gerry had argued that the Portuguese courts violated their right to respect for private and family life in the way the case was handled.

They also argued that their right to a fair trial had been prejudiced by Amaral’s statements about their involvement.

However, European judges rejected that claim – saying the McCanns’ reputation had actually been damaged by Portuguese police briefly naming them as suspects, and not Amaral’s comments.

in a lengthy five-page judgment handed down today, the seven judges wrote: ‘The court held that, even assuming that the applicants’ reputations had been damaged, this did not account for the argument put forward by the book’s author.

‘Rather [their reputation was damaged] as a result of the suspicions expressed against them which had led to their being placed under investigation in connection with the criminal investigation.’

Goncalo Amaral, the Portuguese police officer who led the initial investigation until he was fired, later claimed in a book that the McCanns were involved in Maddie's disappearance

Goncalo Amaral, the Portuguese police officer who led the initial investigation until he was fired, later claimed in a book that the McCanns were involved in Maddie's disappearance

Goncalo Amaral, the Portuguese police officer who led the initial investigation until he was fired, later claimed in a book that the McCanns were involved in Maddie’s disappearance

The judges added: ‘The information had thus been brought to public attention in some detail even before the inquiry file was made available to the media and the book in question published.

“It follows that the national authorities had not breached their positive obligation to protect the applicants’ right to respect for their private life.”

The Strasbourg court also highlighted how Portugal’s Supreme Court had in previous rulings “not suggested any guilt on the part of the applicants or even hinted at suspicion against them” and said their “complaint regarding their right to be presumed innocent was manifestly unfounded”. ‘

The judges rejected the argument that the book had harmed their right to privacy, noting that the McCanns themselves had conducted a tour of media interviews after the book’s publication.

“Notably, they collaborated on a documentary program about their daughter’s disappearance and continued to give interviews to the media,” they said.

“While the Court understood that the publication of the book had undeniably caused anger, anxiety and distress to the applicants, it did not appear that the book or the broadcast of the (Amaral) documentary had a serious impact on the applicant’s social relationships or on their legitimate and ongoing try to find their daughter.’

The panel was chaired by President Gabriele Kucsko-Stadimayer from Austria, as well as British judge Tim Eicke and colleagues from Bulgaria, Armenia, Andorra, the Netherlands and Portugal.

Madeleine was three years old when she disappeared from a holiday apartment where she lived with her parents, brother and sister in Praia da Luz, Portugal.

The German Prosecutor's Office has named Christian Brueckner, who is currently in prison for rape, as the main suspect in Madeleine's disappearance

The German Prosecutor's Office has named Christian Brueckner, who is currently in prison for rape, as the main suspect in Madeleine's disappearance

The German Prosecutor’s Office has named Christian Brueckner, who is currently in prison for rape, as the main suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance

Kate and Gerry had eaten at a restaurant near the flat with a group of friends who periodically went back to check on the sleeping children.

But when Kate went back to the flat around 22.00 to check on the children, she found that Madeleine was missing.

Despite years of investigation – first by Portuguese police led by Amaral, and later by British detectives – no trace of the schoolgirl has ever been found.

In 2020, investigators took the extraordinary step of naming the prime suspect as Christian Brueckner – a German man currently imprisoned in his home country for rape.

Brueckner has previous convictions for child sexual abuse and drug trafficking, and in 2007 he was known to be living in a motorhome near Praia da Luz.

Police say they have phone records that place Brueckner near the apartment where Madeleine slept the night she disappeared, but currently cannot prove he took the girl.

Police released his identity in the hope of persuading anyone with information to come forward, and have said they hope to press charges this year.

Brueckner’s lawyers have stressed that he has not been formally charged, and he reportedly wrote a letter to German prosecutors from his prison cell telling them to ‘put up or shut up’.

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